Monday, March 13, 2017

State Your Intention

Mindfulness Meditation, or working with the breath and releasing thoughts as they arise, has been very helpful to me for many years.  The health, cognitive, and emotional benefits of this practice are well documented.  But sometimes, to the horror of my teachers, I pull out a notepad and start paying closer attention to the thoughts skipping through my mind during meditation periods, turning each meditation into a period of contemplation on goals and intentions.  Meditation has demonstrated that it makes us more open to more ideas, and more noticing of novel thoughts.  So why not put this to use every once in a while?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Inertia and Failure

I have a lot of ideas.  Some of them good ones.  I’ll get started down the path to developing one, maybe even turning it into a thriving business, and somewhere get derailed and left in a gully beside the path sure that some competing idea is better, or the original idea had some philosophical flaw making it of little positive benefit to the people I wished to serve.  I’m experiencing that right now.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mindfulness & Happiness: Not So Fast

Meditation has a deep history in all spiritual traditions as a path toward compassion and insight.  It has also been practiced in many as a means to get to the root of suffering, and, possibly, overcome suffering’s wounds and causes.  Today, however, the often simplified practice of mindfulness sets stress relief and individual happiness as goals of meditative practice.  The move toward a practice that is a panacea to all that ills and a path toward self-actualization has led many critics to point out the flaws in this thinking (or non-thinking, as it were), especially in light of meditation’s long history.  So much personal benefit is promised by mindfulness acolytes that I’m finding the practice described as snake oil with increasing frequency.  Happiness, while a noble goal, is a luxury in a world filled with so much suffering.  It’s also a state that many who meditate deeply never experience.  Pain is just as likely to surface during meditative practice as pleasure is.  Yet the way mindfulness is sold today leaves one who is not achieving less stress and more bliss feeling like they’re doing it all wrong.  They may be, in fact, closer to meditation’s true purpose than any who promise happiness.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Requirement is Self-Discipline

I’ve written of the discipline it takes to maintain both a meditation practice and wellness in the face of mental illness as a keystone of my success in the face of the challenges of bipolar disorder.  In a world that seems designed to limit our impulse control and our attention, for everything is available right now, it almost becomes a struggle to make the sacrifices required to stick to one thing and realize a positive accomplishment of a reasonable goal.  This isn’t just a challenge facing those with mental illness, it’s a challenge facing everyone.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

What If It's Not The Stress After All?

A lively debate has begun in the stress management community over Kelly McGonigal’s Ted Talk in which she presents research that indicates it’s not stress that is damaging, but instead one’s attitude toward stress that dictates the damage done to one’s health by stressful situations.  To put it bluntly, stress doesn’t kill people, thinking that stress is bad kills people.  Volition over physiology.

Can we all be so wrong?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Just Breathe

Mindfulness is either on the cusp of something great, or risks becoming the latest self-help fad to perish from oversimplification.  It has, without a doubt, improved my functioning with bipolar disorder.  In working with others, I have seen similar results.  And while research specific to meditation and bipolar disorder is scarce, the effect of mindfulness on other mental illnesses is well documented, and positive.

But it’s not so easy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Too Stressed to Meditate

For the past couple of years, meditation has been easy.  I’d put in some hard work over the previous decade and had found a place of stillness each time I took to the cushion.  Sure, sometimes what I met as I observed my mind was difficult, but my practice had become productive and indispensible.  I spent the last two years as a stay at home Dad of a toddler.  I did all of the Dad, and much of the Mom, stuff.  I managed the house, cleaned (badly), cooked (very well), arranged activities and play dates, and did what I could to keep the family satisfied.  None of this was easy, but my daughter napped every day.  And while she napped I had a solid thirty-five minutes to meditate, without fail.  I taught a couple of classes each week, and led a Wednesday night drop-in meditation group, but that was more rewarding and fulfilling than taxing.

Then, all of it came to an end.